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Several months ago, Alaska Airlines announced that they would soon be introducing a “new and simplified” award chart. To be fair, this is something that has probably been overdue. Before the most recent changes, Alaska had a variety of different award charts, one for every different partner and every different combination of origin and departure zones. That, coupled with their insistence on showing “mixed cabin” award results when you have a crappy domestic leg in domestic first and the overwater leg in coach, has made redeeming Alaska miles more challenging than it ideally would be. Alaska has just released their new award chart and it is not great news.

The “old” Alaska award chart

Alaska’s old award chart was actually a series of different award charts. When you chose your origin and destination zones, you would be greeted with a series of different award charts, one for each partner (and Alaska themselves, if they flew the route). Here is an example of an award chart from the US to Africa on Condor airlines.

But even though these were the prices for Condor flights, if you were using Alaska MileagePlan miles to Africa on any of Alaska’s OTHER partners, it would be with a totally different chart and different amount of miles. So you kind of had to know which partners were ever worth using, and which to stay away from (hello, British Airways!).

Alaska’s new award chart (if you can even call it an award chart)

Alaska has now introduced their new award chart and it’s… not really an award chart. Here is what shows up on their website

Sorry, but when you say that the cost is “starting at” a certain cost, we all know that is fake. It’s like car commercials that say that the MSRP is “starting at” $39,999. Oh, did you want actual seats and more than 1st gear? That’s extra…. So now in order to see how many miles your flight will be, you have to actually search for your specific flights.

One piece of good news is that there aren’t really any (many?) devaluations yet. A cursory glance at a few different routes show the same cost in miles to be the same as it was a few days ago. If you see any flights that are costing more than they used to, leave a note in the comments. Of course the big problem here is that this lays the groundwork to move to more dynamic pricing, which seems to be where all airlines (and hotels) want to go anyways. That’s basically a stealth devaluation of the value of miles and points since it makes it hard if not impossible to truly get outsized value for your miles and points.

What’s next for redeeming miles on Alaska?

So what’s next for redeeming miles on Alaska? No real need to make drastic changes right now, but if you’re sitting on a ton of Alaska miles, you might look at ways that you can spend that balance down a bit. Personally, I have about 200K miles and I am not planning on setting them on fire or booking speculative trips right now, but I will keep my eye open for how I can use those miles.

The Bottom Line

Alaska has introduced a “new, simplified” award chart, and frankly it’s not much of an award chart at all. It does simplify things a bit in one way, since you don’t have award charts for every single possible Alaska partner. But since the chart doesn’t actually state any firm prices (everything is “starting at”), it’s hard to rely on it to any degree. I would not be surprised if this is the first salvo in a move towards more dynamic award pricing.

What do you think of Alaska’s new “award chart”? Leave your thoughts in the comments


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